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Orlando, FL, United States

Flower J.E.,University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign | Allender M.C.,Urbana University | Giovanelli R.P.,Pfizer | Summers S.D.,Pfizer | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine

Thyroid hormones play a critical physiologic role in regulating protein synthesis, growth, and metabolism. To date, because no published compilation of baseline values for thyroid hormones in beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) exists, assessment of thyroid hormone concentrations in this species has been underused in clinical settings. The purpose of this study was to document the concentrations of total thyroxine (tT4) and total triiodothyronine (tT3) in healthy aquarium-maintained and free-ranging beluga whales and to determine the influence of age, sex, and season on the thyroid hormone concentrations. Archived serum samples were collected from healthy aquarium-maintained (n = 43) and free-ranging (n = 39) belugas, and serum tT4 and tT3 were measured using chemiluminescence immunoassay. The mean tT4 concentration in aquarium-maintained belugas was 5.67 ± 1.43 μg/dl and the mean tT3 concentration was 70.72 ± 2.37 ng/dl. Sex comparisons showed that aquarium-maintained males had significantly greater tT4 and tT3 (9.70 ± 4.48 μg/dl and 92.65 ± 30.55 ng/dl, respectively) than females (7.18 ± 2.82 μg/dl and 77.95 ± 20.37 ng/dl) (P = 0.004 and P = 0.013). Age comparisons showed that aquarium-maintained whales aged 1-5 yr had the highest concentrations of tT4 and tT3 (8.17 ± 0.17 μg/dl and 105.46 ± 1.98 ng/dl, respectively) (P = 0.002 and P < 0.001). tT4 concentrations differed significantly between seasons, with concentrations in winter (4.59 ± 1.09 μg/dl) being significantly decreased compared with spring (P = 0.009), summer (P < 0.0001), and fall (P < 0.0001) concentrations. There was a significant difference in tT4 and tT3 concentrations between aquarium-maintained whales (5.67 ± 1.43 μg/dl and 70.72 ± 15.57 ng/dl, respectively) and free-ranging whales (11.71 ± 3.36 μg/dl and 103.38 ± 26.45 ng/dl) (P < 0.0001 and P < 0.001). Clinicians should consider biologic and environmental influences (age, sex, and season) for a more accurate interpretation of thyroid hormone concentrations in belugas. The findings of this study provide a baseline for thyroid health monitoring and comprehensive health assessments in both aquarium-maintained and free-ranging beluga whales. © 2015 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. Source

Browning N.E.,University of Central Florida | Dold C.,SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment | I-Fan J.,Farglory Ocean Park | Worthy G.A.J.,University of Central Florida
Journal of Experimental Biology

Diet-tissue discrimination factors (δ15N or δ13C) and turnover times are thought to be influenced by a wide range of variables including metabolic rate, age, dietary quality, tissue sampled and the taxon being investigated. In the present study, skin samples were collected from ex situ dolphins that had consumed diets of known isotopic composition for a minimum of 8 weeks. Adult dolphins consuming a diet of low fat (5-6%) and high d15N value had significantly lower δ15N values than animals consuming a diet with high fat (13.9%) and low d15N value. Juvenile dolphins consuming a diet with low fat and an intermediate d15N value had significantly higher δ15N values than adults consuming the same diet. Calculated half-lives for d15N ranged from 14 to 23 days (17.2±1.3 days). Half-lives for d13C ranged from 11 to 23 days with a significant difference between low fat (13.9±4.8 days) and high fat diets (22.0±0.5 days). Overall, our results indicate that while assuming a δ13C value of 1 may be appropriate for cetaceans, δ15N values may be closer to 1.5 rather than the commonly assumed 3. Our data also suggest that understanding seasonal variability in prey composition is another significant consideration when applying discrimination factors or turnover times to field studies focused on feeding habits. Isotope retention times of only a few weeks suggest that, in addition, these isotope data could play an important role in interpreting recent fine-scale habitat utilization and residency patterns. © 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Source

Osborn S.,SeaWorld San Antonio | Dalton L.,SeaWorld San Antonio | Dold C.,SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment | Robeck T.,SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment | Robeck T.,SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine

A 22-yr-old multiparous beluga, Delphinapterus leucas, with consistently elevated serum progesterone concentrations postartificial insemination was diagnosed with viable twins at 149 days postconception. Twins were of similar size at least until day 264, the last point when ultrasound measurements of both twins were made. However, ultrasound was used to determine the viability of both fetuses on days 365, 393, and 400. After 90% of normal gestation, or 434 days, steroids were administered to encourage fetal lung maturation. Seven days later a 40.9-kg live female calf was delivered headfirst. A second 22.7-kg stillborn calf was delivered in fluke-first presentation 8 hr later. Immediately after birth, the live calf was administered surfactant intratracheally. The next day, it was given beluga immunoglobulin intramuscularly, and started on oral antibiotics and provided nutritional support via an oral gastric tube. The calf started nursing voluntarily on day 3. Antibiotic and nutritional support was discontinued on day 10. Bimonthly weight and length measurements demonstrated that after an initial increased growth rate, the calf has grown within normal parameters after birth. This calf represents the first known successful surviving twin of any cetacean species and sets an important precedent for treatment modalities that may be available to assist the premature cetacean neonate. Copyright © 2012 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. Source

Sweeney J.C.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | Stone R.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | Campbell M.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | McBain J.,SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment | And 4 more authors.
Aquatic Mammals

Animal managers from three institutions that hold Tursiops truncatus participated in a workshop directed at documenting survivability of Tursiops neonates (birth to 30 d of age) in their managed populations. Key information was generated for the period 1990 through 2009 for the three organizations. Included in the findings are (1) documentation of the total live births, total fatalities, and causal factors of neonate losses; (2) recommendations for optimizing animal management procedures through standardized monitoring and husbandry intervention techniques, resulting in the best possible survivability of neonates; and (3) comparison of neonate survivability between the years 1990 to 1999 (78.2% of live births) and 2000 to 2009 (90.6% of live births), the latter decade representing progressing improvements in survivability resulting from recommended animal management procedures. Source

Quinley N.,University of California at Davis | Mazet J.A.K.,University of California at Davis | Rivera R.,Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute | Schmitt T.L.,SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases

Morbilliviruses pose a significant threat to marine mammal populations around the world and have been associated with multiple epizootics in pinnipeds and cetaceans. As part of a preventive veterinary medical program, five harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) in a managed collection were vaccinated with a recombinant canarypox-vectored canine distemper virus vaccine. The vaccine was evaluated for safety (by monitoring seals for local and systemic adverse effects and by testing for shedding of the canarypox vector) and efficacy (by testing for serum neutralizing antibodies). None of the seals showed signs of local or systemic adverse reactions to the vaccination. Three seals vaccinated once did not seroconvert, but the recombinant vaccine induced a persistent serum virus neutralizing titer (12 mo) in the two seals that were vaccinated twice, 1 mo apart. © Wildlife Disease Association 2013. Source

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